The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) recently held the 2021 Global Conference on Sustainable Beef. The Roundtable is a network of around 500 members from 24 countries and includes researchers, policymakers, regulators, farmers, and processors.
OSI Group was there to help tackle a number of issues surrounding the value chain and how it impacts animal welfare, individual communities, and our planet. These are critical issues that deserve attention, particularly as critics raise questions and new industries vie for market space.
Instead of supporting claims that beef production is coming to a rapid halt, there’s solid evidence that these claims are far from the whole story. The GRSB and OSI Group shed light on the reality of their industry and how partnerships can carve out a better path for tomorrow.
The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
There are five factors for sustainable beef according to the GRSB:
- Responsible use of natural resources
- Protection of human rights
- Health and welfare of all animals.
- Superior safety and quality of all products
- Efficiency and innovation in the supply chain
These factors are discussed on a practical level within the GRSB, leading to new ideas and practices that can help promote sustainability on a global scale.
Change at the Highest Levels
Nicole Johnson-Hoffman is the chief sustainability officer and a senior vice president for OSI Group, and she has also served as the vice president and president of GRSB. This organization is doing more than talking about the problems of today — its members are actively moving the industry forward.
By getting the stakeholders to communicate on a different level with professionals in agriculture and processing, the Roundtable is creating ties that lead to more compassionate and constructive decisions. It’s also leading professionals to implement sustainability tactics that can affect wide-scale change.
It all starts with the big brands. Johnson-Hoffman has decades of experience in this industry, most of which was spent supplying beef to large fast-food chains. Growing up on a small dairy farm in the Midwest, she’s seen first-hand the degree of change that can be accomplished with the help of big organizations like McDonald’s vs. smaller family farms.
Niche brands certainly have their place in the market, but they don’t have the same effect as a global company would. These are exactly the kinds of issues that OSI Group is helping to address. Speaking on behalf of her colleagues, she remarked, “We that work in the beef value chain are privileged to be part of an industry that means so much to this world.”
The Science Behind the Event
There were three global goals taking center stage during the event: climate change, land use, and animal health/welfare. Johnson-Hoffman commented the time was right to take on this challenge, which is a testament to the industry as a whole. Only five years ago, she didn’t believe it had advanced enough to properly tackle these complex issues on a worldwide scale.
She’s heartened by the sheer rate of progress as well as the science that supports beef. At the virtual conference, she would remark, “Today, having seen so many examples of the work you have done around the world to drive improvements in beef sustainability, and to communicate these improvements to people who want to know about them, we believe this is an idea whose time has come.”
While there are many critics of the beef industry, the science does not support claims that beef production is incapable of achieving any kind of sustainability. Nicole Johnson-Hoffman knows her industry inside and out: “We have accepted our role as the people who know best what our impacts really look like and what our impacts really are.”
From leadership to stakeholder involvement, the GRSB needs to address these issues from every angle and integrate sustainable practices from the top-down. OSI is doing its part to implement better grazing practices for farmers and ranchers to improve soil health and reduce its carbon footprint. OSI Group has also partnered with Impossible Foods to support a public who wants to cut back on meat consumption.
Critics Vs. Opponents
There’s a lot to learn about how beef is judged today and who is doing the judging. Critics of the beef industry are more than welcome to join GRSB because they can raise their voice and help ensure that changes bring real value to both the people and animals involved.
This is a debate that is critical to communities, particularly when beef is an economic driver in so many areas of the world. Shying away from the conflict is not a choice for Nicole Johnson-Hoffman at OSI Group. If she’s not representing the people who work under her, she can’t shed light on how they’re working to create a more sustainable environment for us all.
Make no mistake, regulatory intervention will vary depending on the country. However, there are also a lot of similarities when it comes to farm culture. It’s mainly the assumptions that have caused the real problems, according to Johnson-Hoffman. It’s easy for people to think that Europe has the market cornered on sustainability (due to its regulatory policies) or that US producers are somehow better than their counterparts in other countries.
The reality is that Europe is not like the US. Producers can’t draw parallels unless they’ve been to different countries and understand how everything from culture to policies affects what is done and when.
No one denies that there’s still a lot to be done. “I really believe we will be able to use this organization to do everything we’d hope it would, but we’re not there yet,” said Johnson-Hoffman. It’s the potential that she sees in the larger mission that has her so hopeful.
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